Silverthorne pushes CDOT for answers on stalled Exit 205 project, offers town funding

Traffic from Interstate 70 takes Exit 205 into Silverthorne on Thursday, March 25. On Wednesday, March 24, town officials pressed the Colorado Department of Transportation on when the exit would be a priority for reconstruction.
Photo by Ashley Low

Silverthorne officials are distraught that there has been no movement on the Exit 205 interchange project since an initial study was published in 2012, and they’re offering to help fund the work to get it off the ground.

In a meeting with the Colorado Department of Transportation at the Silverthorne Town Council work session Wednesday, March 24, Silverthorne officials expressed frustrations about the stalled project, which is meant to reconstruct the Interstate 70 exit that provides access to Silverthorne, Dillon and Keystone.

While CDOT officials said the exit is a high priority for the region, Exit 203, the Frisco and Breckenridge exit further west on I-70, is higher on the list because of safety concerns.

Back in 2010, CDOT began a study on Exit 205. The study was completed and a report was published in 2012, concluding that a “diverging diamond” interchange would be the most efficient and cost-effective option. This particular type of interchange allows vehicles turning left to move more freely. The project was put on hold when CDOT prioritized the widening of the Twin Tunnels near Idaho Springs. The Exit 205 project was supposed to be picked up again two years later, but there has been no movement on the project.

Because the study is now more than a decade old, it must be updated, including reexamining resources and traffic assumptions to confirm that the diverging diamond interchange still works. The update is expected to cost $100,000 to $150,000. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $23 million.

At the Town Council work session, Town Manager Ryan Hyland asked CDOT officials to provide a timeline for the project’s next steps after the study update is completed, asking what other steps would need to be taken to get the project shovel-ready.

CDOT’s Region 3 Program Engineer Rob Beck said the department first would have to designate staff for the reanalysis. Once the reanalysis is complete and it is determined that CDOT can start making the final design, the design process would take a minimum of two years. He reiterated that the project depends on whether the state is able to identify the necessary funding for construction.

Council member Mike Spry raised concerns about the lengthy amount of time that already has passed since the project began.

“We’re a decade out of this, and I guess what I want to hear is, where is the priority? This is a project that frankly is really creating some animus within our communities. Dillon and Silverthorne are cut by this artery, and this is a major commerce artery. It’s a major economic artery for not only Summit County but for the state,” Spry said as other council members nodded in agreement.

“Our emergency services have made very strong pleas and very strong statements about how they’ve got to operate — because we don’t have a viable exit during periods of time — … where they can get emergency equipment to one side of the highway or another,” Spry said.

A Colorado Department of Transportation study determined a diverging diamond, diagramed here, would help alleviate the traffic problems Silverthorne is seeing at Exit 205, the interchange of Colorado Highway 9 and Interstate 70. The study, which is about a decade old, needs to be reexamined.
Diagram from Colorado Department of Transportation

Beck said that while he shared Spry’s concerns, CDOT has to examine priorities on a systemwide basis and that there are similar concerns throughout the region. He explained that there are several phases of project work in the area, which include an eastbound auxiliary lane that moves traffic from Exit 203 to Exit 205, the Exit 205 interchange diverging diamond and addressing issues at the westbound offramp at Exit 203.

The auxiliary lane project is in the design process. Beck said the Exit 203 offramp is next on CDOT’s priority list due to imminent safety issues. Then, CDOT will develop prioritization for the Exit 205 interchange. However, he said CDOT is actively pursuing funding for moving the Exit 205 interchange project forward, specifically for the study update.

When it comes to funding for the project, Hyland said the town would be willing to help because it is frustrated that the Exit 203 project has leapfrogged the Exit 205 project.

“I understand that $23 million is a pretty big hurdle,” Hyland said. “… In 2017, we started in earnest pounding the table and saying, ‘We have got to get this moving again.’ And I understand budget challenges, but to let $100,000 to $150,000 continue to hang us up for years and still be a problem is frustrating. Now, I’ll throw this out somewhat in jest: If CDOT needs a loan from the town of Silverthorne to make this happen, and you’ll pay us back later, I think we could put that on the table.”

Beck said he’s confident CDOT will find the money to move forward with the project. While CDOT can’t take a loan from the town, Beck said it can find “creative ways” to fund the project, referring to possible shared costs of design or construction and grant opportunities in addition to an upcoming legislative proposal for $4 billion over 11 years for state transportation funding.

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